How ‘Save The Cowboy’ got started
As the APR’s visions became clear to us, we realized they would silence a large part of Montana ranching heritage forever.
We could not stand idle.
A chain of events beginning in 2016 prompted the beginning of ‘Save the Cowboy’. Local government officials (county commissioners and State legislators) began to listen and become more and more aware of the communities’ deep concerns about the Prairie Reserve’s goals.
2016: 5 counties spanning nearly the entire target area of the APR voted in favor of a Bison Ordinance. This placed bison in the same playing field as cow herds regarding herd health management, identification and fencing requirements written per area conservation district guidance.
2017: 75 land owners in the Winifred community attached ‘negative bison easements’ to their deeded land. These easements restrict bison for 20 years regardless of land ownership, which may be the single most effective tool to date in completely shutting sales of property down to the Prairie Reserve.
2018: Save the Cowboy banners were made available to anyone who feels the APR is a threat to the community. The design and idea for the banners was inspired by a determined group of ranch women who felt that the roadside banners would be an effective way to people all across the country to declare support for a growing movement to stop APR.
January 2019: Save the Cowboy banners were displayed in Lewistown in protest of the APR’s Living with Wildlife conference held in conjunction with the Montana Winter Fair. The Montana Winter Fair is a historic celebration of our western way of life. The APR’s goals of removing ranching from their target area and then declaring a Living with Wildlife conference in Lewistown during the Winter Fair rubbed many people the wrong way. This prompted the protest. This protest gained momentum on social media and drew international attention to the Save the Cowboy movement. Read the article here.
Letters to the editor in newspapers Statewide became common in protest of the APR’s antics.
“Save the Cowboy” gained international recognition
National and International publications such as National Geographic Magazine (February 2020 “Prairie Divide”)
British publication The Telegraph “Cowboys dig in against conservationists in the battle of the soul of American Prairies” May 26, 2019
Sierra Magazine “Building an American Serengeti in Montana” September 5, 2019
Tri-States Livestock News
Many more published articles detailing the conflict between the communities and the American Prairie Reserve. Read them on our “Articles” page.
A Turning Point
The American Prairie Reserve submitted a request for change in use on 18 Bureau of Land Management grazing leases. Their request was to change grazing from cattle producers who follow strict guidelines for BLM grazing leases for production livestock to recreational bison use, which prompted a landslide of public comments opposing the proposal.
A silent roar went up in the ranching communities. A significant number of protests were submitted to the BLM.
‘Save The Cowboy’ movement became stronger and stronger.
Local Government has become a voice for ‘Save the Cowboy’
2019 Montana Legislature
Dan Bartel (Montana House District 29 representative) sponsored a resolution (HJ 28) urging the Bureau of Land Management to deny APR’s sweeping grazing proposal changes on 18 historic grazing allotments.
This resolution was written as a reflection of the voice of the community.
HJ 28 resolution was voted in favor by the Montana Legislature in 2019. It was sent to the federal level in Washington D.C., giving “Save the Cowboy” movement national recognition. The resolution passed both the U.S. House and Senate.
‘Save the Cowboy’
Montana Natural Resource Coalition (MtNRC)
With major forward momentum, the ‘Save the Cowboy’ movement drew the attention of Jim Carlson with Stillwater Technical Solutions. Carlson’s group is dedicated to helping grass roots movements like ‘Save the Cowboy’ research the law and transition to an association of local government officials.
Google – Managing partner Mr. Carlson’s 26-year portfolio includes work in environmental compliance, environmental policy, state and federal administrative policy, legislation, technical research, large-scale infrastructure project management, and ground-up creation of state associations.
The communities of Central and North Central Montana gave generously to ‘Save the Cowboy’.
Over $100,000 was raised to fund research of federal land grazing laws pertaining to the American Prairie Reserve’s request to change in use of federal grazing allotments. Jim Carlson was hired to research federal grazing policy as a guide for BLM decision regarding the APR grazing requests. Further, Jim would facilitate the formation of the Montana Natural Resource Coalition (MTNRC), a coalition of counties to oversee federal land use decisions from a local level.
What is Montana Natural Resource Coalition (MtNRC)?
What does it have to do with “Save the Cowboy”?
MTNRC is a coalition of county commissioners formed to effectively engage the executive branch government and administrative agencies regarding natural resources such as federal land grazing. This coalition of local government officials gives the grassroots ‘Save the Cowboy’ movement and the communities affected a voice with the federal agencies.
Ross Butcher, Fergus County Commissioner was invited to explain how the Repurposing Report helps and how MtNRC fits in the picture by Lane Norlund of the Western Ag Network. LISTEN TO LANECAST AG PODCAST with Lane Norlund and Ross Butcher.
“Save the Cowboy” goes to Washington D.C.
The “Save the Cowboy” movement seemed to get quiet for many months during the fall of 2019 and winter of 2020. However, during that time, the group was working diligently and carefully with the funds raised to help Jim Carlson with Stillwater Technical Solutions draft a document outlining current law regarding grazing on federal lands. This document was completed in the Spring of 2020… just about the time covid hit.
This document titled “Repurposing of Federally-Reserved Taylor Grazing Districts for Wildlife Rewilding: A Statutory, Administrative, and Legal Analysis” is a powerful tool for local government, for BLM decision making regarding grazing on federal land, and for the livestock industry.
With the Repurposing report complete, “Save the Cowboy” had the opportunity to send a delegation to Washington D.C. The goal was to present the document to heads of the Department of the Interior and explain the conflict happening in Montana between the American Prairie Reserve and agriculture communities. The Repurposing report serves as a guideline for BLM in their decisions to either grant the APR their grazing requests or deny them. Our delegation was received very well by the Interior Department in D.C. The trip was a success!
The delegates were Dan Bartel (HD 29 representative), John Fahlgren (Rancher and Valley County Montana Commissioner), Ross Butcher (Fergus County Montana Commissioner), and Jim Carlson (Stillwater Technical Solutions and author of the Repurposing report.)
The BLM has not come to a decision about whether to grant the American Prairie Reserve their grazing requests.
Ron Poertner of Winifred wrote 2 exceptional op-eds in the Lewistown News Argus dated January 2021. These explain the current events happening with the BLM’s decision and what we can expect in the future months. Stay tuned…
“Save the Cowboy” movement is alive and well and continuing to work with the Montana Natural Resource Coalition and our local elected officials in Helena regarding legislation that will further protect our agriculture industry in Montana for generations to come.